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Wisp - The Shimmering Hour

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Artist: Wisp

Album: The Shimmering Hour

Label: Rephlex

Review date: May. 8, 2009

One great way to gain notoriety is to have your music confused for an unconfirmed alias of Richard D. James. As luck would have it, this was the very situation Niagara Falls, New Yorker Reid Dunn found himself in during mid-2007. The obsessive pursuit of the identity of ‘The Tuss’ that summer misled people to the no less brilliant Fruity Loops of “Teddy Oggie.” Of course, among the interested parties was the home of James himself, Rephlex Records. And just as sure as “Teddy Oggie” sits here front and center as proof that James and Dunn are separate people, so too does The Shimmering Hour sit front and center as the latest release for one of electronic music’s most famous labels.

Dunn has been at this a lot longer than two summers and a lucky break, though. His impressively deep back catalog stretches back through a variety of netlabels to as far back as 2003, haphazardly documented by the Wisp Archive. As both the Wisp Archive and Rephlex note, The Shimmering Hour has been a long time in coming – announced in the spring of 2008, we are only just now experiencing the fruits of Dunn’s labors. The wait feels worth it.

This isn’t a revelatory record in any particular sense, at least not insofar as it furthers the cause of “braindance” or whatever that may stand for nowadays. Rather, The Shimmering Hour is very good at smoothing out the edges of his numerous influences. Dunn is an acknowledged fan of mythology, and the medieval font (Perry Black, maybe?) and gnarled tree trunk front cover suggest as much. More relevantly, a song like “Cultus Klatawa” isn’t so far removed from Final Fantasy in-game play. As much as the press kit delights in whipping out AFX, Tangerine Dream and J.R.R. Tolkien, the real heart of this release is every pleasant dream you’ve ever had about Castlevania.

The obvious drawback is that, at 14 tracks and 72 minutes, the second half suffers from the consistency of the music. This album is as much what you make of it as a listener as it is a statement of relevance for Rephlex. Sometimes it bursts forth in glitchy emotion, all big heart and bubbling beats; other times it suffers as soothing fade-ins and fade-outs turn to complementary white noise while you drink to the doom of the Belmont clan for the fifth time in a row.

Length aside, The Shimmering Hour is a well-deserved success for the man behind it. With a proper full-length, a substantial amount of positive press, and the support of Rephlex behind him, Reid Dunn’s future as Wisp looks secure. More releases like this can only carry that momentum forward.

By Patrick Masterson

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